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Friday, August 1, 2014

CAN TREES BE BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

When writing my SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth seven years ago, I stumbled across a startling article indicating that trees emitted methane, and added to global warming.  Be back to that bit of news, but to quote from that book ...:

...methane is most of the energy in natural gas, is the simplest hydrocarbon, has one carbon and four hydrogen atoms—CH4—and can be utilized to cook food, power a car and be converted into ammonia (NH4), the base from which fertilizer is produced. A cow produces this gas, with carbon dioxide; decaying woody material decomposes mostly into carbon dioxide, but also methane; and the globe is warmed by its presence in the atmosphere. In fact, it is from 20 to 62 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide in causing the Greenhouse Effect, depending on which reference you use and the parameters of consideration. Of course, nitrogen dioxide has a global warming potential (GWP) of 296—where carbon dioxide is 1—hydrofluorocarbon HFC-23 is rated 12,000, trifluoromethyl sulfur pentafluoride is 18,000 and sulfur hexafluoride, used as a high voltage insulator, has a GWP of 22,200. Thankfully, there are only trace amounts of those gases in the air. CO2 is needed by plants as we need oxygen, and, all in all, is a reasonably benign gas. It’s just that we produce so much of it. Well, actually, fossil fuel burning is responsible only for 14%--nature makes for the rest.

Further:

The worst mass extinction in history, killing off 95% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial life, occurred 251 million years ago, according to Gregory Ryskin of Northwestern University. Methane from bacterial decay or from frozen methane hydrates, stimulated by a meteorite impact, earthquake or volcano, could have triggered a catastrophic eruption of methane gas.

Yes, this is getting tedious, but I need to again quote from my book:


Finally, are trees good or bad? The Kyoto Protocol endorsed reforestation, where now, in Europe and, even, Chicago, carbon credits can be bought and sold for growing more trees. However, a team from Germany, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland reported in Nature in 2006 that ordinary plants produce significant amounts of methane, both in the growth cycle and the decay process. The latter was previously known, but trees being a contributor to global warming just by growing, thus contributing up to 30% of all the methane generated? That was a bombshell! So much so that the Max Planck Society floated a press release attributed to the researchers responsible for the paper within a week of publication with the title, “Global Warming – The Blame Is not with the Plants,” a somewhat weak declaration stressing that global change is real, trees have been around for a long time and have for eternity been aiding and adding to the problem, but mostly helping. Plus their findings were very preliminary, where, at worst, all these negatives will only reduce carbon uptake of reforestation by 4%. Thus, planting trees was still good. There were, however, three notes complementing the Science article: (About that world map...the USA is the ONLY country to have declined joining the Kyoto Protocol!)

       o From the Editor: Regarding natural gas plants, this additional source of methane could account for 10-30% of the annual methane source strength and has been overlooked in previous studies.
    o David Lowe: The results are startling because methane is being emitted under normal physiological conditions and that these emissions are large.
       o Quirin Schiermeier: Climate researchers are amazed that they missed what is a huge methane source

In any case, that 2006 "bombshell" indicated above was quietly suppressed by the Max Planck Society, possibly because an anti-tree message subverted the Kyoto Protocol strategy, and nothing much surfaced after that neutralizing declaration.  However, more recently:
While those bottom two articles talk about pollen and ozone as the pollutants, the fact of the matter is that there are green myths, and one of them is that trees consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, so they must be good for the environment.  The problem is that if methane is 20-62 times worse, per molecule, than carbon dioxide to cause the Greenhouse Effect, plus there are other detrimental products being produced--AND, WHATEVER CARBON DIOXIDE CAPTURED BY THE TREE IS IN TIME ALL RELEASED BACK TO THE ATMOSPHERE WHEN THEY DECAY--maybe we shouldn't plant trees to reduce global warming.

Yikes, I'm actually drawing from Rush Limbaugh, but he deprecated the growing of trees.  However, for the wrong reason, so I guess I'm okay with it.  

For the record, environmentalists have indicated that you need to plant 25 trees to make up for the carbon dioxide you breath out.  If you drive a car, add another 125 trees.  Oh, further, if you make a New York to Hawaii trip and back, that equals another 125 trees.  I travel around the world once or twice annually.  That means I need to plant something like a thousand trees/year.  Get all the details from the Green Travel Center.  Some people are taking this seriously and donate to their favorite tree-planting organization.  CarbonFund.org will plant a tree/dollar, and send you dining rewards.

Arghhhhhhh...hate to be that Grinch, but I now wonder if the United Nations and other global climate change groups might be advocating the wrong solution.  I'm actually beginning to think that trees might well be bad.  The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in the Afterlife and planting of trees.  What's wrong with me, anyway?

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Typhoon Halong, now at 85 MPH, will strengthen into a Category 3, and move through Okinawa north of Naha, then up to Kyushu, Japan:


Tropical Storm Iselle, now at 60 MPH in the East Pacific, will strengthen into a hurricane and head straight for the Big Island of Hawaii.  


However, all models show Iselle weakening into a tropical storm or less by the time she gets to Hawaii.  Ensemble models show a wide spread:


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